Category: Auto-biography

By on May 26, 2011


As I explained in the introduction to this series last week, I’m finally tackling the story of the most significant car I’ve ever owned. This ’65 Impala went through ten years, 100,000 miles, and many conceptual shifts during its time with me, but it all started out as my attempt to make an art car that wasn’t A) lame and B) contemptuous of the idea of the car itself. Read More >

By on May 19, 2011


I put in four years and thousands of posts at Jalopnik, writing about most of my formative cars… but never once did I write the story of the car that served me longest, gave me the most miles, endured the most engine swaps, and generally laid claim to a bigger piece of my heart than all the rest of my motley lifetime fleet combined: a 1965 Chevrolet Impala sedan, built at the long-defunct South Gate Assembly Plant in Los Angeles, equipped with a 283/Powerglide drivetrain, and painted Artesian Turquoise. Today, at last, the story begins. Read More >

By on April 2, 2011


I ended up with a copy of Sammy Hagar’s memoir as reading material for my last air-travel adventure, and found it quite entertaining (in spite of the tedious anti-David Lee Roth/Van Halen brothers diatribes). His tales of being the son of Fontana’s town drunk are worth reading, but the only real shocker came when Hagar describes the car he bought in 1973 with the first real money advanced to Montrose. You’ll never guess what type of vehicle the Red Rocker bought with his first rockstar-grade paycheck! Read More >

By on March 10, 2011


The Home Depot-ization of all forms of hardware retailing continues unabated, as I found out this afternoon. I needed a pair of 7″ long 1/2″ Grade 8 bolts, today, so that I could get my Dodge A100 Hell Project back on the road. Easy, right? Maybe ten years ago it was. Not today. Read More >

By on February 2, 2011


Going through my old 2X2X2 35mm stereo slide pairs for posting on Cars In Depth (I’ve been messing around with twin-film-camera 3D for about 15 years now), I came across some shots of the ever-varied fleet of late-80s/early-90s Japanese subcompacts I owned during the heyday of San Francisco’s notorious City Tow car auctions. Read More >

By on January 6, 2011


When the 24 Hours of LeMons HQ crew left the season-ending Miami race on New Year’s Day, we didn’t go back home. No, we got right on a plane to northern Jamaica for our corporate retreat! Read More >

By on May 14, 2010

Transitions are almost never easy, and leaving TTAC and Curbside Classics is downright painful. But for a number of reasons, that’s what needs to happen right now. Two of them are in the picture above. Read More >

By on April 4, 2010

This garage holds 45 years of automotive memories. As does the house it’s attached to. I’ll spare you the memories and stories that are being shared, relived and dredged up as the Niedermeyer clan shares a get-together at my parents’ house in Towson. But let’s take a quick look at the cars that have lived here since 1965. Like families, it’s a mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly (as the current occupants make it all too clear).  Read More >

By on September 19, 2009

The stuff dreams are made of

I find myself floating above an endless sea of thimbleberry bushes. The berries are all ripe, infinite delectable crimson caps punctuating a sea of green. I can’t see the trail, but somehow distant and hidden legs carry me along and know where to go, while I gorge on the fruit. Now I’m behind the wheel of my car, watching an endless movie loop of a winding serpentine road, with a rushing river to my left and a wall of towering firs on my right. I have no awareness of actually driving; the car knows what to do while I gorge on the scenery. The road through Oregon’s deep woods is utterly deserted. Then an image confronts me, so unexpected, so surreal, that now I know I’m dreaming.

Read More >

By on May 10, 2008

In 1971, I committed a crime, the repercussions of which still affect me today. I was a bored eighteen year-old whose over-developed automotive memory banks craved stimulus. In those pre-web dark ages, the information gap between monthly car magazines was excruciating. Desperate, I plied the 629.22 rack of the Iowa City Public Library, and found the font of automotive history. I slipped the heavy Rosetta stone under my baggy Army surplus jacket and walked out. I’ve been guiltily absorbing its contents ever since. Read More >

By on April 5, 2008

porthole.jpgSpontaneous road trips are a like a treasure hunt without the clues. The prizes always appear unexpectedly. Like Goldendale’s night-shift police officer. “No, Mr. Niedermeyer, your speed was just fine. But you seem to have your high-beams on. That’s against the law within city limits. But… you’re free to go.” With those words of affirmation, our road trip to Wenatchee resumed. Adrenalin flowing, we were alert to the next roadside attraction. Read More >

By on March 29, 2008

beauty-spot.jpg“You’re free to go.” With those hackneyed words, the Goldendale police officer returned my license. They were the very same words I’d heard in my head just a few hours earlier. At one-thirty last Sunday, my older son Ted called: “If you can drop Will [(his brother) here by three, we can take him back with us to Portland for a few days.” Cabin fever was at 103. The ninety minute deadline to pick a destination and pack the xB was just the tonic I needed. Time to head for… (flings open the atlas)… Wenatchee! Read More >

By on March 8, 2008

For me, driving bliss is all about the setting. Give me an empty road, spectacular scenery, good company and the freedom to explore without an itinerary or time constraints, and I’m in Heaven. Sure, a nice set of wheels enhances the pleasure. But if it came down to it, I’d take an inexpensive reliable car and an endless open road over a garage full of under-used toys that never really get off their leash. I knew the basic formula intuitively in my youth. Read More >

By on February 23, 2008

“Scion does not recommend towing a trailer… your vehicle was not designed for towing.” Welcome to the great American anti-towing conspiracy. Manufacturers of anything less than a big SUV or pick-up are trying to take away our God-given right to tow with our cars. For a guy who’s towed everything from a Radio Flyer wagon behind a pedal-powered John Deere sidewalk tractor, to a three-bedroom house, I feel like I’m being singled out. Of course, there’s a possibility that I’m the cause as well as the target of this jihad. A lot of lawyers do drive the Ventura Freeway, and one of them may well have seen my spectacular stunt with a trailer. Read More >

By on February 16, 2008

Somewhere west of Ogallala, rocketing across the plains at ninety-six in a sixty-nine Plymouth Fury, a twangy voice lectured us with the old song: “love and marriage, love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage.” My two female traveling companions and I exchanged glances, laughed and sang along. “…you can’t have one without the other.” In that precious moment, everything crystallized: what it meant to be nineteen in 1972, free as a bird, barreling down the freeway in a powerful American sedan. Read More >

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